I have been asked by many to try and explain to the families of victims, what it’s like living as an abuse victim. I will try my best, however I just want to preface that being a victim myself and after speaking to countless others, I can safely say that nothing written below is an exaggeration in the slightest bit. Everything I will write is the complete truth that either I have felt, continue to feel or have heard from others.
Imagine for a moment driving down a road. You’re alone in your car and enjoying the peace and quiet. Looking down at your phone for a moment, you see that a text came through. Wasn’t a very important one but the urge to respond, overpowered the responsibility of keeping your eyes on the road. As you read the last word, you suddenly hear a loud thud. Your window shatters and through the broken glass, you can see a young boy flying through the air and landing on the pavement beside your car.
After freezing for a moment, you jump out of your car with shaky legs and run over to the now apparent lifeless boy. His skull was broken and you can’t do anything but watch helplessly as the blood is pouring out of his head. You watch in horror as the medics arrive and despite their heroic lifesaving measures, they are forced to cover him with a white sheet and declare him deceased.
As the family arrives, you learn that this child was born after many years of his parents infertility and that there’s no chance for them to have any future children. The shame and guilt you’re feeling is beyond describable. The next few days pass by in a blur of pain, self disgust and self anger amongst many other emotions.
The funeral is awfully heartbreaking and although you feel horrible attending, you feel obligated to go. You’re the odd one out. Everyone is there to give final respects to the boy while you’re there, feeling absolutely horrible and choking from guilt. A silly text killed this boy and it was in your hands to avoid this all.
Again, you need to visit the family and when walking into the home and seeing all the pictures of this precious boy, you feel once again as though your life is over.
You don’t want to live as the pain is too much.
You can’t function as the guilt and shame is too overpowering.
You can’t pray as you feel that God doesn’t want to listen to a murderer.
You can’t work as your head is simply not cooperating.
Your thoughts of suicide become stronger and louder. Not because you want to die but rather because you can’t deal with the level of pain.
All you can think of is “why”. Why did you have to read that text? That guilt eats at you for days, weeks and then months until you can bare it no longer.
Us victims, have had our life robbed from us at a young and vulnerable age. We lost our innocence. We lost our trust in people. In adults. In love. In humanity. In society. We lost our self esteem. We were killed but forced to remain alive at the same time. We were maimed again and again and after each attack, we were put back together in order to be broken again.
Sexual abuse gets into our mind, body and soul. It’s a three tier attack which hurts us on every level of every part of us.
Our mind was robbed and we are convinced that it was our fault. We feel guilt and shame over what has happened. All the guilt that our abusers should’ve had, are thrown on to us in a very cunning way by our horrible monsters. We are therefore stuck with debilitating feelings of self blame and hatred. The questions we keep asking ourselves is why we let it happen? Why did we go back for more? Why were we so weak? Why didn’t we realize? Why didn’t we stop it? These and so much more plague us for tens of years after the actual abuse is over.
On a spiritual level, we feel disgusting and disconnected from God and religion. We are taught in school how disgusting and wrong these behaviors are and at the same time, we participated in these very same behaviors. We feel like a failure to God, our parents and to religion in general. We feel unwanted by God. Perhaps even hated by Him. We feel unloved and uncared for. Many of us feel so much anger as we prayed so hard for it to stop and for some reason our prayers weren’t answered. We therefore struggle with so much of religion and because so much of our lives is based on religion, we have a choice to make. We can either throw away life or throw away religion and the simpler and easier of the two, is to throw away religion. We don’t want to, but we have no choice.
Additionally, many of our abusers used religion as a catalyst to groom us. Religion therefore becomes interwoven with trauma, abuse and pain.
On a physical body level, we hate our body for what has been done to it. We hate it for possibly enjoying it to some extent. We hate it for responding to the abuse. We hate it for “allowing” it to happen. We hate it because we are afraid that our body was the cause of this all. Cutting is a punishment to our body. Self harm is a way of hurting ourselves because our bodies “deserve” this pain and punishment. It’s also a way to feel some sort of physical pain in order to relieve us of some of our extreme emotional turmoil.
Shabbos, a day of rest, is a day of extreme inner battles and pain. We don’t have distractions to keep our brain occupied. Holidays are awfully difficult because of the many triggers and flashbacks it brings on.
While everyone else is dancing, singing and rejoicing, we are dying inside. All alone. Alone. Alone. Alone.
Praying, going to shul and doing certain commandments are close to or in some cases fully impossible.
Living a married life can be brutally difficult as we are participating in similar actions that were done to us at an age too young and in the most horrible and disgusting ways.
Being a parent is so difficult as we have so many responsibilities despite feeling so awful and wounded internally.
Being a teenager is almost impossible. We want to be like everyone else. A happy go lucky and careless teenager, yet we are stuck in a whirlwind of intense pain and struggles.
Going to a wedding or a party is impossible for so many reasons.
Seeing a doctor or going to the dentist is brutally difficult. It’s triggering to the next level. How can we allow someone to touch us wherever they need to?
Holding down a job is so hard when our self esteem is so shot.
In short, abuse is a life sentence of pain and extreme guilt, shame, self blame, self hatred and a host of emotional conditions.
Everything becomes something.
Everything reminds us of him, her or them.
Everything is a challenge.
Sleeping, when we can, is usually laden with horrific and vivid nightmares from our past and we therefore wake up feeling physically and emotionally sick and depleted.
We hate ourselves.
We hate being.
We hate living.
We want to die because the constant pain is too much to bear.
We want to kill ourselves because we are so angry at our body.
We want to scream, cry and yell but so many of us need to keep our pain a secret. The tremendous shame of abuse seals our secrets with the strongest of lids and we are forced to live a life of pain all alone.
Yet we still remain alive.
We are still around.
We fight every day to be.
We fight through darkness strong enough to paralyze us.
We push through pain heavy enough to drown us.
We fight and try and try and fight and we usually make it through somehow but it’s a very difficult and painful journey.
We sit through years and years of therapy in which we face our hardest and most painful memories.
We try and try and fight through severe anxiety, depression, PTSD, BPD, nightmares, flashbacks, triggers and so much more.
Most of humanity will give in, however because we were forced to continue living while we were being murdered alive, we develop a sense of resilience and fortitude to keep on going.
In closing, I’d like to say that although there’s so much suffering, there is hope that things will and can get better slowly. It’s a slow and arduous journey with many victories and an equal amount of pitfalls. Some of us have an easier journey, some have an extremely difficult one and some sadly don’t make it through.
I plead with you all that although I don’t think it’s ever possible to understand our pain, I ask you to trust us.
Trust us that we’re hurting.
Trust us that we are trying our best.
Trust us that we don’t want to be bad.
Trust us that if we say we are not up to attending an event or doing something, we truly can’t do it.
Trust us that the abuse happened. Abusers can look very innocent and loving which can confuse you, however I beg of you to trust us that it happened.
And lastly, trust us that if we could, we would and that many times we simply can’t!
Finally, telling us to move on or to look at the good we have in our life is so painful and hurtful to hear. With trauma, PTSD and the triggers and flashbacks make it feel as though our abuse and traumas are still happening. If we are in the midst of horrific abuse, how can we simply “move on”? We are working on it and trying our very best to heal but simply trying to “move on” is like that fellow “forgetting and moving on” as he’s looking over the bleeding and deceased boy on the side of the road. It’s simply impossible.